04/10/2010 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Love and Loss for the Next Generation

When I was a little girl, my mother used to make my clothes; all I wanted was store-bought dresses. Today, I am convinced I can do anything, as long as I am wearing the right outfit. When my daughter was a little girl, I shopped for her at Bendel's. Today, no matter what occasion, she wears Casual Friday. This welter of memories came up at the Westside Theatre, after seeing a production of Love, Loss, and What I Wore last month, and so I wanted to see it again, this time with my daughter.

As the five actresses of Love Loss and What I Wore meticulously lay out every meaningful bit of wardrobe -- the Brownie uniform, the prom frock, the two dresses daddy bought before he left for good, the push up bra, the purse, the bathrobe -- the words exert the power of Proust's madeleine for me. My daughter thinks, fascinating, but that's so yesterday, but then, as this play sneakily offers a trip down memory lane for all, some lines resonate: "No, I can't return it because I bought it on sale." She wonders, are the younger actors as obsessed with clothes as her mom's generation?

And so as the play's new cast, formidable and funny, comprised of Carol Kane, Janeane Garofalo, Joanna Gleason, Caroline Rhea, and June Diane Raphael, a requisite mix of young and old and different body types, took off their black and joined the celebration at Marseilles, she could see that Janeane Garofalo had removed her sequins in favor of a dark cotton tee shirt and jeans, and still looked somewhat subversive.

For me, Caroline Rhea is a hilarious stand up comic on Comedy Central; my daughter knows her as one of the aunts from Sabrina, The Teen Aged Witch, and could pick out the television show's star Melissa Joan Hart at the party, a reassuring piece of her childhood.

Love, Loss's Gingy is based upon the true-life character created by Ilene Beckerman who, in a style I'll call gypsy chic -- bandana, long skirt -- told me she has seen the play with its rotating cast fifteen times. Loving the way each actress brings something new to her role, she pointed out, "This is not real life. Real life is home in New Jersey, with the house, the problems, the grandkids."

Delia Ephron, who co wrote the clever script with her sister Nora Ephron, has recently completed a book, titled The Girl with the Mermaid Hair, about daughters dealing with their mother's plastic surgery. They are struggling with self-image in a way that Love, Loss, and What I Wore only begins to define. This Pandora's box may require more than Love, Loss's cathartic laughs.

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